Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Revisiting the Wild Wild West: The Night of the Iron Fist

"The Night of the Iron Fist" 
Written by Ken Pettus
Directed by Marvin J. Chomsky
Synopsis: West and Gordon are assigned to bring the Bosnian Count Draja to Washington for extradition, but the Count has a hidden gold stash and a hefty price on his head, so the trip is complicated by treasure-seeking criminals and reward-seeking vigilantes.

Trey: While this episode isn't one of the greats, I don't agree with Kesler's assessment in her book that it is flat or boring. It's a perfectly serviceable episode with nice action and enough wrinkles to keep the fairly simple plot engaging for the runtime. It's (like many this season) a good mixture of spy-fi and Western that leans heavier to the Western.

Jim: I also enjoyed it more than Kesler seemed to. I liked this WWW take on the classic lawman and prisoner plot, but what I enjoyed the most was the format of the show. It was like watching two separate shows as West and Gordon are involved in their own predicaments!

Trey: And both survive by their wits in this one. That's a trait we often see in Gordon, but it's good to see it in West.

Jim: I definitely enjoyed seeing West use a few clever tricks to get out of tight spots. And it was good to see his horse again. 

Trey: A Western hero has got to have a well-trained horse to rely on.

Jim: Other highlights of the episode for me: The way West switched out Draja, and Gordon took his place; the way Gordon dispatched his captors out the train car door--and how West used a stack of cookware to distract his attackers. 

Trey: All good bits! I do feel like there are a few story aspects that could have done with a bit more explanation. The basic plot, lawman and prisoner forced to work together, typically goes one of two ways in classic TV. One way is the prisoner is proven to be innocent or at least sympathetic in some way, and it ends with the lawman being willing to help the prisoner out in some fashion. The other is for the villain's inadequate justifications for their misdeeds to contrast with and emphasize the hero's goodness. The problems they face essentially just mean that the villain makes events more complicated for the hero. This story is more like the second version, but Count Draja isn't really developed in any way to accentuate the difference between him and West. We don't really know what he did, and what little explanation we are given of his actions is vague.

Jim: I totally agree with you on the lack of character/story development with Count Draja. That's where such episodes shine, as the villain is revealed to be more heroic than initially thought, or at least more sympathetic, as you say. Draja just seems like he's along for the ride most of the time. It's a very disappointing use of Mark "Sarek" Lenard. 

Trey: Likewise, Countess Zorana's motivations are murky. When she didn't denounce Gordon as a Draja imposter, I assumed at first that she might be a scammer as well, but that doesn't appear to be the case. We are left to infer that she thought that turning Artie in wouldn't help her, and she might have need of him, but there are a lot of assumptions on her part there that I think required a few lines of dialogue to explain why she went that route.

Jim: I just found Zoranna to be a bit of a bore. I'm not sure the writers really knew who she was throughout the entire episode.

Trey: Lisa Pera gives a decent performance, but it's true she doesn't have a lot to work with. Interestingly, this is her second WWW appearance: she was the medium Amelia Maitland in "The Night of the Tottering Tontine."

Jim: Huh. I didn't recognize her as a blonde!

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